Postponed: Changes and challenges facing new Burma and plight of Rohingya

The world has watched for decades, hoping for political reform that would bring freedoms to Burma. While the past two years have brought remarkable political and cultural changes, the hope of freedoms quickly gave way to ethnic conflict and communal violence targeting Muslims.

“The New Burma? Religion, Democracy and the Rohingya” panel will explore the changes and challenges facing the new Burma, focusing particularly on the plight of the Rohingya kabita_chakrabortyWednesday, Feb. 27 at 4pm at 280A York Lanes, Keele campus.

Kabita Chakraborty

The three panellists, Anwar S. Arkani, Kabita Chakraborty and Antoine Nouvet, bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the panel, says Professor Alicia Turner of York’s Department of Humanities who organized the event.

Anwar Shah Arkani is the founder and president of the Rohingya Association of Canada. A lifelong activist and human rights defender for Rohingya people, he left Burma in 1984 when his people lost their citizenship rights in their ancestral land after the 1982 Citizenship Law was enacted. He spent time in Bangladesh and Thailand before settling in Canada in 1998 as a government-sponsored refugee.

From 2006 to 2007, Arkani helped to rescue thousands of stranded Rohingya at the Thai-Burma border. He has been invited twice to speak at the United Nations in Geneva about the plight of the Rohingya.  In Canada, he has worked tirelessly to create awareness among Canadians about the cause. Aside from his career as an IT professional, he has helped to settle Rohingya refugees in Kitchener, Ont., and is a frequent speaker at public schools and settlement agencies.

York humanities Professor Kabita Chakraborty of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies is a human rights activist and scholar with extensive experience working with, and for, children and young people in marginalized communities. Two of her key research areas are girlhoods and young women in marginalized communities in Asia, and the historical and contemporary study of female migrants in Asia. She is currently developing research amongst Rohingya and Karen refugee youth.

The third panellist is Antoine Nouvet, whose interest in Burmese society, history and politics date back to the early 2000s, when he first began volunteering for Canadian Friends of Burma and encouraged his local Amnesty International chapter to focus its activities on Myanmar. Under the auspices of an International Development Research Centre-funded program, Nouvet was a researcher and project manager in the field of communications and society in Southeast Asia from 2008 to 2010.

His research has focused on nation-building in Southeast Asia, with a comparative focus on the place of Shan populations in Mae Hong Son Province, Thailand, and in Shan State, Burma.  Nouvet is currently a regional analyst for the SecDev Foundation, undertaking work at the intersection of social cohesion and armed violence reduction, digital empowerment and cyber governance.

The event is part of the Diversity, Rights and Religion series organized by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), which includes a talk on Buddhist religious policy in China and the screening of two films by York professors, Zulfikar Hirji’s (anthropology) Pushpanjali: A Sensory Invocation and Patrick Alcedo’s (dance) Ati-atihan Lives.

For more details, visit the YCAR website or e-mail